The whole Green Lantern mythology alone proves that DC Comics writers can be at least ten times more insane than anything Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ever conjured up at Marvel. The magical alien (or whatever) ring that Hal Jordan wields allows him to pretty much do anything, and pretty much anything goes in a Green Lantern story — Frank Miller took this free-for-all creative license to its most absurd extremes when he closed Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again (aka DK2) with Hal enlarging himself to such a size that he could hold the entire Earth in the palm of his hand. Or was it the entire universe? Does it matter?
Unfortunately, this general lack of strict boundaries (come to think of it, it might’ve been the entire universe) also makes Green Lantern as much a hard sell to mainstream moviegoing audiences as Thor was for Marvel last month (though that seemed to work itself out okay). There aren’t really any “rules” to the Green Lantern mythos — it is sprawling, constantly adaptive and often contradictory, simply because Hal Jordan, via the power of his ring, can do whatever he wants. Sort of. Or something.
You’d think a director like Martin Campbell could bring this flyboy down to Earth, in more ways than one. Campbell brought a gritty, grounded realism to the James Bond reboot, Casino Royale, and Green Lantern could’ve used that kind of, shall we say, “calming” discipline when it came time to adapt it for cinema. What better way to reign in Green Lantern than to trap him into a two-hour origin story that has to have a beginning, middle and an end? Maybe we should just concentrate on the character of Hal Jordan, have two or three really awesome action scenes and deal with the rest of the crazy mythology in future installments (if at all…)?
Unfortunately, that’s not that case. Campbell’s Green Lantern throws everything at you at once — everything. The opening ten minutes is a completely CGI-rendered fantasy-scape of outer space, featuring a bunch of CGI-rendered aliens all wearing the Green Lantern costume as Geoffrey Rush yammers on and on about the Green Lantern Corps and the power of the Ring and a new threat to the universe called the Parallax and… oh, there’s Ryan Reynolds. Are we on Earth now?
From there, we get your typical “Golly, check out these powers!” kind of origin story, with some clunky “character weaknesses” that test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) has to overcome (Daddy issues, fear issues, intimacy issues…) — and what better way to grow up and become a better man than by becoming a superhero, the newest member of the universe-defending Green Lantern Corps that can fly to outer space and create glowing greeny machine guns, body shields, catapults and giant fists just by thinking of them? Oh, also glowing greeny necklaces — there’s a girl, too, but you’ll barely notice — and when the girl you barely notice is Blake Lively, something is definitely amiss.
Bam! Zap! Zoom! Green Lantern is pure and utter chaos. Geoffrey Rush tries to explain things to us, but the movie just keeps piling more and more upon itself that we don’t even have a chance to reflect and apply the information to all the madness going on. There are some impressive special effects, to be sure — Parallax, a huge, crawling, slimy fog bank thingee with an angry demon face, is an especially wonderful creation — but it’s all just noise and bright flashing colors before too long. Reynolds tries hard, but even his considerable charms can’t bring us to, well, enjoy any of this very much.
It’s a shame. If Martin Campbell had cracked the whip and brought it down a few notches, we would’ve had a decent first entry in what could be a marvelously creative gonzo sci-fi franchise. Unfortunately, Green Lantern is a glowing, greeny mess.